|Leila Hatami, joint winner of the Berlin Silver Bear
This is the first of what should hopefully be a series of reviews from our new contributor, "A.H"':
After being denied permission by the law courts to a divorce in order to raise her daughter away from Iran, Simin (Leila Hatami), in an early scene of A SEPARATION, moves out of the apartment she shares with her husband, daughter and father-in-law, to live with her mother. The demanding familial situation she leaves behind becomes the work of Razieh (Sareh Bayat), whom Simin’s husband hires as a housekeeper and carer to his elderly, invalid father. In taking on these significant responsibilities, Razieh encounters difficulties almost immediately: she must travel a tiring distance to work each morning; with her own young daughter to mind in tow; and she finds herself unsure of what her religion will allow her to do in the nursing of a lost old man who is unable to clean or speak for himself. However, the larger problem that becomes clear by pieces as this unstylised, unhappy film unfolds is that Razieh herself, in accepting this unsuitable role and the money it will bring, is attempting to deal with the failings and inconstancies that have taken place in her own family. Her fraught situation further complicates the newly altered life of Simin’s family, and the elusive, final separation that Simin desires at the outset of the film.
The meeting of these stories is the intricate art of this drama, and the ensuing tangled involvement of these two families, from notably different classes, is worsened by a few heated, tragic events that move this private confluence from Simin’s family apartment and its environs into the Tehranian law courts. There the tragic events and the lonely histories behind them are variously debated and confessed, and their judgements are harsh and quick and always inadequate in comparison to the length and complexity of what has been previously witnessed and sadly understood – most of all by Simin’s daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). Indeed, at the end of the film, when a final trip to the courts is made, a resolution to the contest of family, and moreover, to the contest of loyalty, becomes the most impossible and dreadful of tasks. That heart-wrenching scene is a testament to the subtly cumulative method and ultimately powerful work of this compelling film.
A SEPARATION played Berlin 2011, where it was the first movie in history to win 3 Bears: the Golden Bear for director Asghar Farhadi; and two Silver Bear for Best Actor and Actress given to the entire ensemble. It also played Sydney 2011 where it won the award for Best Film. It was released earlier this year in Iran, Belgium, France and Thailand. It is currently on release in the UK, Turkey and Germany. It opens in August in the Netherlands, Hungary and Spain. It opens in Sweden on September 16th; in Poland and Denmark in October; in Italy and Norway on December 25th; and in Brazil on January 6th 2012.